Hundreds of media personnel lose wages

The International Federation of Journalists is deeply concerned that hundreds of media personnel are owed wages and severance pay after plans to launch a new newspaperwere abandoned. Hong Kong-based newspaper Oriental Daily reported on June 18 that more than 30 media personnel at Hong Kong Morning News had arranged through the Hong Kong Labour Department to have a closed door discussion with senior management to ask for overdue wages and severance pay. However, the senior managers were absent from the meeting. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, which is helping the media workers to fight for the overdue payments, said it had already received 120 complaints involving more than HK$3 million. The workers demanded that senior management disclose the identity of the paper’s backer so that they could file a lawsuit. Meanwhile, nine senior managers including Peon Lei Lun-han, 46, the sole registered Director and Vice-President of the company, issued a legal document on June 11 asking the company for late payments and severance pay. On March 19, Lei and entertainment editor Hills Lam Kin-ming, 54, were attacked by four masked men wielding iron pipes at Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon. Lei resigned on May 12. After the attack, it was reported that the person funding the newspaper project was detained by Mainland authorities because he was involved in fraud. The IFJ Asia Pacific Office said: “While a diversity of media ownership and plurality of media voices is welcome, Hong Kong needs media owners who have the best interests of the Hong Kong community at heart. The IFJ believes the first duty of media owners should be to run profitable media businesses, responsive to the needs of their audience and that respect the legitimate rights and entitlements of their employees. If the individual responsible for funding the Hong Kong Morning News has, indeed, been arrested by Mainland authorities for fraud then the employees are entitled to be fully informed if that is the case. Furthermore, they are entitled to be remunerated for their work to date. These delays in the payment of their overdue wages and their severance pay bring enormous discredit to Hong Kong’s Labour Department” It is widely known that parts of the Hong Kong media have been infiltrated by Mainland funds. Many Hong Kong media bosses have been nominated as members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. We urge the Labour Department to demand that the Hong Kong Morning Post disclose the identity of the paper’s funder to all affected employees so that they can protect their rights. We also urge all employees immediately to contact the Hong Kong Labour Department to demand overdue payments and other entitlements.